Pottery from Japan dated to 10,000 B.C. is the oldest known in the world.
The story of Jomon pottery is the earliest example of this tradition and artform.
Pottery making in Japan is a fine art form that is traced back to the beginning of the 13th century, with the introduction of Chinese and Korean ceramic techniques and the foundation of one of the most important kilns, at Seto in Aichi Prefecture.
If you wanted to describe how important the city of Seto is for pottery in Japan, you only need to look at one word: “Setomono”. It is the universally used Japanese word for pottery, all pottery not just the pottery coming specifically from Seto.
The History of Seto Is the History of Pottery
According to the written records of Seto, Kato Shirozaemon Kagemasa (1168 – 1249) known as Toshiro, went to China with the Zen monk Dogen to learn about pottery. Years later, he returned to Japan and endeavored, by traveling through the whole country, to find the perfect soil to make pottery. During his journey, he discovered in the Seto region high-quality clay along with the great quality of natural resources needed for making earthenware and porcelain. He established the first Seto kiln and began to make glazed wares in a Chinese style, imitating Chinese celadon.
Through his fine pottery pieces, Toshiro became Toso or Master of pottery, being the pioneer of pottery in Japan. He established himself at Seto which speedily became a large center of pottery and china manufacture.
His legacy was succeeded for over 12 generations.
Learn About the History of Japan’s Pottery at Seto-Gura Museum
The Seto-Gura Museum displays the history of the city’s local pottery and ceramics, and its transition from the origins of “Setomono” to modern automation. The museum is divided into 3 floors: the first floor exhibits ancient kilns, workshops, and displays a recreation of the Seto townscape. The second floor exhibits a complete guide to the entire production process of pottery-making, along with working machinery and a coal-fired kiln.
The third floor exhibits glass-case pieces of representative and rare pottery from the Heian Period (794 – 1185) and standout Chinese-style vases and novelty pieces.
Seto-Gura Museum (瀬戸グラミュージアム)
Entry Fee: adults 520 yen, children under 14 years 310 yen
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Address: 1-1 Kurashocho, Seto, Aichi 489-0813
Lots of Lucky Beckoning Cats Are Inviting You to Visit the Maneki Neko Museum
We’ve all seen so-called Lucky Cats at Asian restaurants throughout the world, but did you know they are originally a Japanese symbol?
The Lucky Cat, or Maneki Neko, invites money or luck by beckoning with one hand. That’s why it is also often referred to as Beckoning Cat in English.
In Seto, you will find the biggest collection of Maneki Neko in the world at the Maneki Neko Museum housed in a neoclassical white building. 1000 of these cute figurines (big and small) will keep you entertained, and it is a lot of fun trying to find your favorite one.
The museum also has a small cafe where you can take a rest, as well as a Maneki Neko painting experience, where you can color your personal Maneki Neko and take it home with you as a souvenir.
Maneki Neko Museum (招き猫ミュージアム)
Entry Fee: adults 300 yen, university/high school students 200 yen, junior high school students and younger free
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00, closed Tuesdays
Address: 2 Yakushimachi, Seto, Aichi 489-0821
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Kamagaki No Komichi, a Winding Footpath in the Eastern Foothills of the Town
This photogenic 400-meter long street is lined on both sides with old pottery tools and parts of kilns. The narrow winding street in the old part of town leads past pottery studios and art galleries.
Kamagaki no Komichi (窯垣の小径)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: open 24 hours
Address: Nakaboracho, Seto, Aichi 489-0833
Learn the Art of Buddhist Statue Painting
Even though Seto is all about pottery, it is not the only fascinating craftsmanship to be found in the city. It is also home to a studio specialized in restoring Buddhist statues.
It is a fascinating place and a unique chance to get up close to the old statues, even some in private possession that otherwise never see the light of day.
The specialists at this studio restore the statues using techniques such as wood carving, gold plating, and painting.
As a souvenir of your experience, you can paint a small wooden box with beautiful Buddhist images using the same tools and colors as the masters.
This experience includes not only a tour of the studio, and the painting experience, but also a short guided tour through the arcades of Seto, rich in explanations by the young master of the studio.
Book your Seto experience here.
Jokoji Temple, Feel the Essence of the History and Culture
Jokoji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple built in 1336 located on the top of a mountain. It houses the mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao, the ninth son of the warlord and the first Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. And it is designated as an Important National Cultural Property.
The best time to visit Jokoji Temple is during the autumn leaves season, from Mid-November to early December when the many maple trees are bright red.
Jokoji Temple (定光寺)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Address: 373 Jokojicho, Seto, Aichi 480-1201
Seto Toso Festival, Honoring the Pioneer of Japanese Pottery
The Seto Toso Festival is held during the third weekend of April.
It is a festival in honor of Kato Kagemasa, the pioneer of pottery and the one who settle Seto on the map.
Each year the Suehiko Shrine, located inside the large grounds of Fukagawa Shrine where he is believed to be buried, holds a festival in his honor, but festivities are spread throughout the city including multiple pottery fairs.
Seto Hina Doll Festival, Celebrating Girl’s Day With a Huge Display of Hina Dolls
Every year, families across Japan celebrate Hina Matsuri, also known as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day with a display of dolls dressed in the costumes of the court of the Heian Period (794 to 1185). This traditional festival is an occasion to pray for the well-being and prosperity of girls.
During the Seto Hina Doll Festival, a four-meter tall Hina doll pyramid displays over 1,000 Hina dolls made of glass and ceramic at the Seto-Gura Museum. It takes place each year from early February to early March.
Discover the Biggest Pottery and Ceramics Festival at the Setomono Festival
The Setomono Festival is the biggest festival of its kind in Japan and the best place to get pottery at discounted prices. The 2-day festival celebrates Seto’s long pottery history by opening a gigantic bargain market with about 200 open-air stalls set up along the streets near the Seto River.
Attracting Good Fortune at the Maneki Neko Festival
This festival is all about cats! Beckoning Cats to be exact, or Maneki Neko as they are called in Japanese. For 2 days in September, the people of Seto thank the Maneki Neko for bringing them continuous good fortune.
The highlights of the festival include an exhibition of 100 Maneki Neko especially made and chosen from contenders all over the world. Kids can get face paintings so they can all feel like kittens for a day, and if you can’t get enough of Maneki Neko how about having a delicious lunch served in a cat-shaped lunch box.
How to Get to Seto
Seto is located around 20 kilometers to the west of Nagoya. From Sakae, in the center of Nagoya, take the Seto Line to Seto Station. The one-way trip takes around 30 minutes and costs 460 yen.
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